We Ranked Every Tool Album From Worst To Best, So Get Ready To Fight

Tool's discography landed on streaming services for the first time last week - here's what you should get stuck into first.


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The hour has dawned. Hell has frozen over. Pigs are soaring through the air.

Folks, Tool are on streaming services. They’re perhaps one of the biggest holdouts in the history of the platform — behind maybe Taylor Swift, The Beatles, Radiohead or Beyoncé, who all moved their major releases onto services in the last couple of years.

Now, the band’s entire studio discography (save for the hard-to-find 72826 EP from 1991) is available to stream to your heart’s content — and all it took was the impending release of an album that’s been 13 years in the making.

Ahead of LP5 Fear Inoculum arriving on August 30 — or so we’ve been lead to believe — here’s a quick crash course on Tool’s releases thus far, and their ranking in the food chain of one of metal’s most discussed and debated bands.

#5. Opiate EP (1992)

We begin with the band in its zygote stage, still figuring out its immediate dynamics and fleshing out its songwriting potential. They sound more like Helmet than King Crimson here, leaning heavily into the alt-metal sound that was on the rise at the time. It’s not explicitly bad by any stretch of the imagination, but it still sounds very much like a band that is in its teething process.

Opiate is essentially only worth revisiting to gain a sense of perspective on where Tool were heading following their first earnest attempts at making music together. For die-hards and completionists only.

#4. Undertow (1993)

By the time Tool had assembled their debut LP, they had begun to shift to a more progressive direction. The songs on Undertow are longer, with alternating passages and a greater sense of space within their composition. ‘Sober,’ Undertow‘s lead single, puts forward an easy argument for being the first truly great Tool song.

Although it spirals around only a two-chord progression, it is captivating in its own unique way that centred on the dynamics at play between each of the band’s four members. There are certainly moments that drag, and moments that needed a bit more work on them — hangovers from Opiate, no doubt. Even so, Undertow showed great potential within its tracklist.

#3. Ænima (1997)

Let’s make something clear here: Ænima is home to some of the best individual songs that Tool have ever written. ‘Stinkfist’ is still a force to be reckoned with, ‘Forty Six & 2’ is hands-down one of the best rock songs of the 90s and ‘Third Eye’ is a piece of scorched-earth catharsis that remains their best closing number to date (your move, Fear Inoculum).

Where the album loses points is its inconsistencies. Nothing tracks like ‘Die Eier von Satan’ and ‘Cesaro Summability’ drag the whole thing down, while the less said about ‘Hooker with a Penis’ the better. Still, the positives generally outweigh the negatives and there’s plenty to enjoy here all the same.

#2. 10,000 Days (2006)

10,000 Days felt like a universe in and unto itself when it arrived in April 2006. From its bifocal digipak cover to its sprawling 76-minute runtime, there was plenty to lose yourself in — especially after five years away (back when that seemed like a long time between albums).

What may be the most interesting aspect of 10,000 Days, however, is just how human it gets. Up to this point, Maynard James Keenan had been aggressively private, giving precious little detail away in his words and music.

With the album’s centrepiece, the ‘Wings’ suite, Keenan is the closest he’s ever come to revealing the man behind the curtain as he delves further into his relationship with the matriarch of the Keenan family.

Arguably the band’s most accessible release, serving as a mosaic of sorts — a collection of detailed and intriguing artworks, coming together to form something even bigger and better on a united front.

#1. Lateralus (2001)

Arguments can be made for all four of Tool’s albums to be their best — and, given how much metal fans love arguing, said arguments have been made for decades now. That being said: If you are looking for the definitive Tool record, you need to look for the album that simultaneously showcases the band’s strengths and expands upon them to their furthest possible reaches.

For all intents and purposes, that album is Lateralus. It’s an exhaustive, expansive, confronting behemoth of a record. It’s also one that could have only been made in its exact context — after a decade together, and the scene-setting work of both Undertow and Ænima making it possible.

It’s an album just as steeped in mythology and Reddit theories as it is thunderous tom rolls and snarling downtuned guitar — a thinking man’s metal album, but only for the overthinkers. It’s a Grammy winner, but it’s also responsible for one of Pitchfork’s most infamously snarky reviews. It’s responsible for the band’s only-ever entry into Billboard Hot 100 (that would be ‘Schism’), but it also sports intense musical passageways and a famed recreation of the Fibonacci sequence — bringing a literal sense to the term “math metal.”

It less divides the room and more parts the Red Sea, such is its power. Nearly 20 years on, it still makes the strongest case for Tool’s place within the upper echelons of heavy metal history.

David James Young is a writer and podcaster. One time on a forum, he saw someone describe being a Tool fan as “literal suffering.” Suffer no more, friend. Find out more at